The score isn’t the most important thing about summer baseball, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tough losses.
Pahrump’s 14U Connie Mack baseball team suffered a tough defeat Friday night at Green Valley, surrendering runs in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings in a 6-5 loss to the Gators in Henderson.
“We had a chance to really have some big innings,” Pahrump coach Tom Metscher said. “They put a relief pitcher in who was real hittable, and we just couldn’t time him up. We struck out a lot more than we should have.”
The Trojans struck out 11 times, including three during a 1-2-3 fifth inning. They also had a few base running mistakes, twice badly crossing the line between aggressive baseball and reckless play. Potentially big innings were choked off by bad instincts, with runners getting thrown out easily at third and once at home.
“We sometimes don’t read the ball real well,” Metscher said. “That’s a big challenge we have with this age group, to have a little more patience.”
Gaining the patience that comes with experience is one reason they play summer ball, but players do show off the skills they already have as well. Two of them were especially good Friday night.
While Gavin Schudel ended up as the losing pitcher, he kept the Trojans in the game with three dominant innings of shutout relief. Coming in with two on and one out in the third, he allowed an RBI single and a walk before settling down, retiring nine Gators in a row.
Aside from a pop-fly single in the sixth, Schudel did not allow a ball out of the infield between the first batter he faced in the third and the game-tying double in the seventh.
“Gavin threw a lot of strikes and let his defense play behind him,” Metscher said. “And that’s really the difference when we win and lose a game, if our pitchers are throwing strikes or not. We have a solid defense, and we’re competitive in every game, and usually the difference comes down to walks, hit batters, unearned runs … we call them ‘freebies,’ giving them free bases and having those runners come around and biting us.”
That was certainly true against Green Valley, as four of the six runners to score reached base via a walk or by getting hit by a pitch. Two hit batters also moved runners along in the first inning, helping the Gators score their second run.
The game’s standout player was Fidel Betancourt, who put on a show at shortstop. Not only did Betancourt record seven assists and three putouts — accounting for 45 percent of the outs — and did so in a variety of ways.
“He was outstanding today,” Metscher said of Betancourt. “That kid, when he is on, is as good as there is for that age group. There were a lot of tough balls for him to field and make strong throws to first, throws that were off balance, throwing on the run, and he was right on every single time.”
Betancourt also had 2 hits, stole 2 bases, drove in a run and scored a run, and he also made what at the time was a game-saving relay throw, hitting catcher Austin Sandoval to nail the potential winning run at the plate, turning a 2-run double into a 1-run double and sending the game to extra innings.
But the Trojans just could not put anything together during the second half of the game. James Metscher led off the game with a triple and scored on a single off of a fielder’s glove by Betancourt, Dallton Norland and Leo Finkler hit consecutive doubles to start the second for a run, Louie Sposato ripped a 2-run single in the third, and Gabe Armer singled home the fifth run in the fourth inning, but the Trojans managed just 2 singles over the last four innings.
“We’re going to break through,” Metscher said. “These kids are battling, and they work hard.”
Metscher was right about breaking through. The Trojans scored 21 runs just one night later at Ian Deutch Memorial Park in Pahrump, rolling to 12-3 and 9-0 wins over winless Faith Lutheran, a sweep that left them 3-6 in the league and immediately put Friday night’s loss in the rear-view mirror.
“It’s not really all about wins and losses,” Metscher said. “It’s about development, and I see the team coming together. If there’s a good loss, today was a good loss.”
Junior All-Star roster
Pahrump Valley Little League will host this year’s District 4 Junior Little League tournament beginning Friday night. The Trojans roster:
1 Brennen Benedict
3 Eddie Steeves
4 James Metscher
7 Gavin Schudel
12 Justyn Ybarra
13 Sean Owens
14 Gabe Armer
23 Fidel Betancourt
24 Dax Whittle
32 Austin Sandoval
43 Leo Finkler
66 Chris Aguada
Manager: Tom Metscher. Coaches: Drew Middleton, Eddie Martinez.
The District 4 Juniors Tournament opens Friday with Summerlin South taking on Western at 5 p.m. and Pahrump facing Cheyenne at 7:30 p.m. at Ian Deutch Memorial Park, with Mountain Ridge and Lone Mountain receiving first-round byes. Friday’s losers play Saturday in an elimination game, while the winners play again Sunday.